William Jones (the Father), was born in Randolph, MA, January 28, 1822, son of Obadiah and Abigail “Nabby” (Madden) Jones.
He married in Randolph, MA, March 29, 1840, Sarah W. “Sally” Ellis (the Mother). She was born in Alton, NH, in 1823, daughter of John and Olive (Bickford) Ellis.
They resided initially in Randolph, MA, where they had children Josiah Jones (b. 1841), Rufus L. Jones (b. 1843), Ezra E. Jones (b. 1845), (the Son) Alfred W. Jones (b. 1848), Maria J. Jones (b. 1850), and (the Daughters,) Henrietta Jones (b. 1852), and Leola I. Jones (b. 1854).
The Jones family then moved to Alton, NH, sometime between 1854 and 1860, where they may be found in the Eighth (1860) Federal Census. They were in Rollinsford, NH, in 1870, and Alton again in 1880. Their son, Alfred W. Jones resided in Milton in 1880, and the parents took up residence there sometime between 1880 and 1896. (They should not be confused with other families of that name residing already in Milton).
The Jones family assets seemed to have belonged to Mrs. Sally W. Jones. Deeds, papers, promissory notes, and even family jewels, are mentioned as being hers personally and kept in her triple-locked strong box.
The Accident and the Death
She and her husband traveled by carriage to Rochester, in October 1896, where they withdrew a final mortgage payment from the bank and set up her pension (perhaps an annuity). They returned via Farmington, intending to pay off the mortgage and to visit one of their daughters on the way. Their carriage took a glancing blow from a passing train near Place’s Crossing and ejected them. (On modern NH Route 11 near the Taylor Rental store). Both were injured, but she more seriously.
They were laid up at their daughter Leola Prescott’s home in Farmington, but he was able to return to Milton after two days. She remained much longer. Their son, Alfred W. Jones, visited her there and prevailed upon her to draw up a will, which named him as administrator. She first became ill, as opposed to injured, at this time. She burned the will upon returning home to Milton.
She died in Milton, December 5, 1896, after suffering two days with a recurrence of her illness. Milton Vital Records attributed her death to an intestinal stoppage.
Six months later, on April 7, 1897, her son, Alfred W. Jones, and two of his sisters Henrietta (Jones) Dorsey and Leola I. (Jones) Prescott, declared that she had been poisoned and accused their father of having done it.
(Despite the newspaper report, we may note that it was the son, Alfred W. Jones, who put forward the claim of a dispute between his parents).
WANT THE BODY EXHUMED. – Daughters of Mrs. Jones Declare They Relieve their Mother Was Poisoned and They Suspect Their Father.
SOMERSWORTH, N.H., April 7. – Alfred W. Jones of Milton. N.H, and his sisters. Mrs. Henrietta Dorsey of Springvale, Me. and Mrs. Leola Prescott of Acton, Me, were here today and applied to Coroner L.E. Grant for a permit to exhume the body of their mother, Mrs. Sally W. Jones, who died at Milton. Dec. 5, 1896. They stated that they have every reason to believe that their mother was poisoned and that suspicion points to their father, William Jones, as administering the poison. Mrs. Jones, they allege, was taken ill with violent pains in the stomach two hours after eating dinner Dec. 3, and died two days later, being unconscious part of the time. The doctor’s certificate of death gave the cause as stoppage of the bowels. Mr. Jones, they say, desired her to make over her property to him, otherwise “there would be a corpse In the house.” He had poison in the house. they aver, and he is opposed to having the remains exhumed. They called on County Solicitor Nason this forenoon and requested him for the permit. He gave them a letter to present to Atty. Gen. Eastman, which they will present. They state that they will exhaust every means to have the body exhumed and have the cause of death settled. Coroner Grant has made arrangements to consult with Prof. Wood of Harvard college in regard to the case, as the body was embalmed at death, and he desires to know what effect the embalming fluid would have on the body (Boston Globe, April 7, 1897).
(Note that the police seemed to have played no part in all this at all. Milton had then only a part-time police chief (see Milton’s Men of Muscle in 1900), who would not have been equipped to deal with this. Nor did the county sheriff take the fore).
Alfred W. Jones sought an exhumation order from Strafford County Coroner L.E. Grant, of Great Falls (Somersworth), who directed him to Strafford County Solicitor William F. Nason, of Dover, who refused to issue the exhumation order.
NH Attorney General Eastman ordered finally the exhumation, which took place in June 1897.
A forensic expert, Edward S. Woods (1846-1905), was consulted. He was a professor of Chemistry at Harvard College (now Harvard University). Professor Woods seemed to have been consulted in a great many New England murder cases from at least the early 1880s. For example, he had been involved in Rochester’s Hattie Elliott case in 1891, and the infamous Lizzie Borden case in 1892. He was remembered in 1923 as a having been a celebrated toxicologist and medico-legal expert.
The Test Results
Professor Woods reported back to the coroner that Mrs. Jones had indeed been poisoned.
The Globe EXTRA! 5 O’CLOCK FOUND POISON. Prof. Wood’s Report in Mrs. Jones’ Case; Solid Crystals of Arsenic Discovered in Stomach. The Strange Case at Somersworth. Body Buried Last December Was Exhumed in June, Portions Sent lo Cambridge for Analysis. Son’s Suspicions Well Founded – Coroner Grant Will Act.
SOMERSWORTH, N.H, Dec. 13 – Prof. Wood of Harvard university has made a report to coroner Grant of this city to the effect that he found arsenic in the stomach of Mrs. Sally W. Jones, which was submitted to him for examination some time ago.
Mrs. Jones died at Milton, N.H., last winter. In June her son asked that the body be exhumed and submitted to an examination. After considerable trouble the necessary authority was obtained, the body was disinterred and portions were sent to Cambridge.
When Alfred W. Jones, the son, presented his case before coroner Grant he stated that there had been trouble between his father and mother over some property. Other circumstances, which the son considered suspicious, were also referred to.
Mr. Jones was directed by the coroner to present his case to County Solicitor Nason. Mr. Nason, however, after hearing Mr. Jones’ story, declined to take up the case.
Mr. Jones then went to Atty. Gen. Eastman, who granted the man’s petition. The body, which had been buried in December, was taken up in June.
Coroner Grant did not go into the case further than to remove the parts which it was desired should be submitted to expert examination.
Prof. Wood’s report has just been made known. He states that in the stomach and intestines he found solid arsenic crystals. The poison, he states, was administered before death, and its presence could not be due to the use of embalming fluid.
Coroner Grant will communicate the finding of Prof. Wood to County Solicitor Nason. It is expected that steps will be taken at once to bring about the arrest of the person of whom Alfred Jones is suspicious (Boston Globe, December 13, 1897).
The Son Accused
DUE TO POISON. Arsenic in the Stomach of Mrs. Sally W. Jones. Prof. Wood Reports to the Coroner. Son Alfred Had the Body Exhumed. Woman Died at Home in Milton, N.H. Husband and Father, William, Tells of Family Row. Makes Serious Charges Against the Son. Coroner Grant to Consult with County Attorney.
SOMERSWORTH, N.H., Dec 13. The receipt today by coroner L. E. Grant of the report of Prof Edward S. Wood of Cambridge on the. analysis of the stomach and intestines of Mrs. Sally W. Jones, who died under suspicious circumstances at her home in Milton. Dee 5. 1896, has aroused fresh interest in the alleged poisoning case, both here and in Milton.
The case is expected to develop many sensational features from the fact that Prof. Wood’s analysis shows that the stomach and intestines contained arsenic, in crystalline form in considerable quantities, as well as in solution. and that it was probably administered before death.
Prof. Wood has been at work upon the analysis since last June. He writes that much time has been consumed in distinguishing between the arsenic crystals taken into the stomach before death and the poisonous solution used in embalming the body.
Coroner to Act.
Coroner Grant says that Prof. Wood’s analysis practically removes all doubt that Mrs. Jones’ death resulted from poisoning. In addition to this he has it on the authority of the undertaker that no arsenic was used by him in preparing the body for burial. He says the authorities now have a duty on their hands to find how this poison was administered and by whom. He will tomorrow consult with County Solicitor Nason in reference to holding an inquest.
Coroner Grant today notified Alfred W. Jones of Milton, son of the dead woman, that he had received Prof. Wood’s report.
It was at the urgent solicitation of Alfred that the body was exhumed last June, and the examination made and he furnished the funds necessary for conducting the examination. The result is of such a nature, however, that the authorities will probably make a thorough investigation of the case whether Alfred cares to proceed further with it or not.
Alfred has talked much about the affair, and has repeatedly asserted that he knew his mother was poisoned. He is alleged to have pointed the finger of suspicion at his father, William Jones, and then at his sister, who resides in Farmington and at whose house Mrs. Jones first became sick with symptoms of poisoning. The people of Milton, however, entertain no suspicion against either William Jones or his daughter.
Neighbors have said that Alfred had in his possession at his home a large cabinet containing many poisonous drugs, which was given him a number of years ago by Dr. Jenkins. who lived with him and who afterward committed suicide.
Story Told by Jones Sr.
William Jones, the father, tells an interesting story of a family quarrel.
He said in an interview tonight: “On Oct 5, 1896, my wife and I drove to Rochester to prepare her pension papers. She was receiving pension of $12 a month. Before leaving she drew $50 from the bank and paid the last penny of debt on the homestead. We then started on a drive to Farmington to visit our daughter, Mrs. Prescott.
“On the way our carriage was struck by a train at a crossing. and both of us were thrown out and quite severely hurt. Regaining our senses and our carriage we managed to get to Farmington, where Sally was laid up for several days.
“In two days I was able to return home, and then I was taken suddenly ill. The doctor told me I could not recover. While confined to my bed Alfred’s wife came to visit me and told me that mother was growing worse at Farmington, and had had a Rochester lawyer draw up her will, bequeathing the property to me, Alfred to be the administrator and to take care of me.
“When my wife returned she said that Alfred and his wife had visited her. and that a little while after they left she was taken sick and suffered much pain, and she believed Alfred’s wife [Ella S. (Kimball) Jones] hated her and had tried to poison her.
“On the Saturday my wife died my daughter, who was caring for her, came from the sick room and said her mother was very sick and in great distress. Alfred and his wife were at the house and remained in the room with her while my daughter ate dinner with the rest of the household.
“When I went into the room I found
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DUE TO POISON.
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my wife very sick, and I told the hired man to go for Dr. Hart. As soon as he started Alfred called him back, saying it would be of no use, for nothing could be done to save her.
“Alfred was ransacking my wife’s chest, in which she kept her money, deeds and other papers and valuables. While he was there at work I again ordered the man to go for Dr. Hart, and he arrived a few minutes before my wife died. Alfred was much surprised when the doctor came in.
Missed All Valuables.
“I tried to prevent Alfred from opening the chest and trouble ensued. In spite of this he got possession of the papers and held them while he tried to make the almost dead woman recognize him.
“After Alfred had left the house I got Selectman J.A. Avery to witness my examination of the chest. I missed from it $450 worth of diamonds, presented to us by my son Joseph, who is a sailor; the deeds of our property, insurance and money and jewelry to the value of $1100. Everything of value Alfred had taken.
“I asked him to return the stolen valuables. He became excited and said be did not steal them, claiming that his mother had made a will and appointed him administrator, by virtue of which he had the right to take everything that belonged to her. I told him that she had burned the will on her arrival home and that Mrs. Pillsbury was a witness to the act. Alfred said he knew better and he refused to give up the property.
“He then charged me with having poisoned my wife. The accusation nearly prostrated me. Alfred had had trouble with his sister, Mrs. Prescott, and he also accused her of poisoning her mother.
“Alfred attended the funeral, but refused to go to the cemetery and see his mother buried. After the funeral he wanted me to come and live with him, but I declined. He insisted and grew angry, but I refused and said to him: ‘My son, you have already robbed me, but I shall take care that you do not kill me.’
“He then tried to stir up the people and fasten the crime on me. I was at first greatly alarmed, but when they heard my story and that of other members of the family, they began to pity me. At this turn of public feeling Alfred began his efforts to have the body exhumed and examined. He applied to the selectmen, but did not succeed. He afterward got permission from the county authorities to have this done.”
Mrs. Jones was 74 at the time of her death. Her husband was 71 in November. He has consulted counsel, and intends to take legal action toward recovering the property from his son (Boston Globe, December 14, 1897).
The trial of Alfred W. Jones took place in the Strafford County courthouse in Dover, NH.
FATHER AGAINST SON. Wm. Jones Testifies as to Alfred’s Conduct While Mother Was Dying. Prof. Wood Tells of His Finding Arsenic in Body of Mrs. Sally W. Jones, the Wife and Mother, of Milton, N.H, and of the Respondent’s Requests, Both Written and Oral, Bearing Upon the Examination.
DOVER, N.H. Jan. 3. Slow progress has been made by the state for the first day of the hearing in the case against Alfred W. Jones of Milton, charged with causing the death of his mother, Sally W. Jones, by giving her poison mixed in her medicine, in the early part of December 1896, but enough has been made to show that the defense will fight every inch of the ground in its effort to clear the respondent.
In his opening argument this morning County Solicitor Nason said that the state was prepared to show a motive for the crime and an opportunity to commit it on the part of Alfred W. Jones. The motive attributed to him was the desire to acquire the property held by his mother, and the opportunity lay in his having free access to the rooms of his parents’ home at any and all times.
To show that he made use of that opportunity the solicitor said the state would put in evidence the purchase of 12 horse powders containing 3½ grains each from an Exeter veterinary in the summer of 1896; that Sally Jones was sick with symptoms of poisoning not long afterward, and that on the morning of Dec 3, the day she was taken with her last sickness, Alfred, after making an early trip to Rochester to get a load of piping for a tenement, went to his father’s house, where he remained two hours and had access to all the rooms.
This circumstance, he said, would be shown in connection with the fact that between 2 and 3 in the afternoon, after taking medicine prepared by Dr. Pillsbury for her, Mrs. Jones was taken with violent sickness, and she died on the evening of the second day following.
Motive and Opportunity.
The principal feature of the evidence showing a motive on Alfred’s part, Mr. Nason said, would be his dictating to a Rochester lawyer his mother’s will, which she signed while she was at Farmington in October, 1896, very sick from injuries she received in a carriage accident at Places Crossing, the provisions of which made him the sole owner of her property at the death of her husband who was to receive the income from it during his natural life, Alfred in the meantime to be the administrator of the estate.
That Alfred had in mind this will at he time of his mother’s death the solicitor said the state would show, that he had made statements concerning his coming into possession of the property both to his father and to a neighbor, and that on the evening his mother died he obtained possession of the keys to her triple-locked private chest and removed her money, valuable papers and diamonds, and remarked to his sister, Mrs. Prescott, who was present, that he could not find the will.
It would also be shown, he said, that Alfred was ignorant of the fact that after Mrs. Jones had recovered from the accident she had had the will read to her and had then destroyed it.
This, in addition to the finding of arsenic in the stomach and intestines of Mrs. Jones, comprises briefly the case which the state will endeavor to prove against Alfred Jones.
During the time solicitor Nason was speaking Jones was an attentive listener, but not a shade of expression of nervousness or more than ordinary interest flitted over his face. He was easily the calmest person in the packed court room.
Alfred’s father, William Jones, was among the large gathering of witnesses, and Milton citizens, who had come down to hear the proceedings, but the eyes of father and son did not meet. Both seemed oblivious of the other’s presence.
At the afternoon session, however, when William Jones took the stand, the two men gazed at each other, but the
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FATHER AGAINST SON.
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gaze of each was cold and expressionless.
Alfred showed his appreciation of the presence of his acquaintances by shaking hands with them all at the close of the morning session.
By request of the defendant’s counsel the court ruled that the state’s witnesses be excluded from the court room while the states side was being put in, and only one witness was present at a time. This was asked for the purpose of preventing these witnesses getting the drift of the cross-examination.
Prof. Wood Testifies.
The first witness called was Prof. Edward S. Wood of the Harvard medical school. He testified:
“I received last June a jar containing the stomach and intestines of Sally W. Jones, with instructions to analyze them for the presence of arsenic, I found in the intestines one-half grain of white arsenic.
“If arsenic were administered one day at noon and the person died the next day the conditions would be the same as found. All the arsenic that had been administered would not be found, in such an examination as I made. In the present case the vomiting would throw off the major portion of the white arsenic. I could not tell whether arsenic caused Mrs. Jones’ death until further examination, but the symptoms described would indicate that.”
Witness said he had received three letters from Alfred W. Jones. Lawyer Crowley objected to the letters going in as evidence until they were identified as being in Jones’ handwriting, and James A. Edgerly was called and testified that they were written by the same hand, that of Alfred Jones. The court then allowed the letters to he introduced.
The first one read was dated June 23, 1897. It asked whether Prof Wood had found arsenic in the body of Mrs. Jones, and stated that if he had it might lead to the discovery of another important poisoning case.
The second letter read inquired as to the cost of examining the stomach of Mrs. Jones. It stated the conditions under which she died, and closed by saying that the writer believed his mother had been poisoned by her husband or youngest daughter.
The third letter was dated April 5, 1897, and in it the professor was asked whether he supposed the embalming of the body would prevent his finding arsenic, and contained the words. “We feel quite sure that there was a second dose of poison given between the dates mentioned. We think it was rat poison. I feel quite sure you will find poison. The symptoms were those that appeared in the case of Sylvester Kimball, who worked on the Learoyd farm.”
Kimball Case Referred To.
On the cross-examination Prof. Wood stated that Jones also came to see him toward the close of his examination.
Lawyer Crowley asked permission to question the witness regarding his finding poison in the stomach of Sylvester Kimball. Solicitor Nason objected on the ground that there was no evidence before the court of any other case of poisoning and that such questioning would be irrelevant.
A long discussion followed, in which the defense stated that in order to explain Jones’ apparent knowledge of his mother’s poisoning it was necessary to show that he was familiar with the circumstances connected with the Learoyd poisoning case, the very knowledge of these coming home to him and exciting his suspicions as to the way in which his mother came to her death, and that in order to make competent this evidence it would be necessary to bring out the fact that Sylvester Kimball had been poisoned. The state’s objection was finally sustained.
The cross-examination then went into the effects of arsenical poisoning.
“It takes from two to two and one-half grains of arsenic to cause death.” said Prof Wood; “that is, it must be absorbed into the system, not merely swallowed. Arsenic taken into an empty stomach would show its symptoms soon. I cannot say that in my examination I found evidence of slow poisoning. I can simply say that I found these crystals.
“The first and only time I saw Jones was early last December. I then told him the examination would be completed in a few days.”
William Jones’ Story.
The next witness was William Jones. husband of Sally W. Jones. He testified:
“I lived with my wife 56 years. We lived alone in Milton for several years before her death. We had four children, three daughters and one son.
“On Oct 5, 1896, my wife and I went to Rochester and drew out of the bank $50, with which to pay off a mortgage. We then started for Farmington to pay the money. While on the way we met with an accident at Place’s crossing. Our horse was a strange one and became frightened at the train, throwing us both out and injuring my wife severely. Her spine was injured and some ribs were broken. I also sustained injuries. We were taken care of at the home of the Robinsons. I was able to return home the next day, but my wife was confined to the bed 10 or 11 days. Dr. Pillsbury attended her.
“After Sally’s return home she gradually recovered and on Dec 3 was about well. She worked about the house and helped tack two quilts. On that day also she superintended the cooking of a chicken for dinner. Alfred came in in the forenoon and stayed an hour and a half. He was accustomed to visit the house at all times of the day. That afternoon about 3 my wife was taken sick and was in great distress with vomiting. Dr. Pillsbury was called.
“Alfred shortly afterward came and remained until Sally died. On the afternoon of that day Alfred said to me, ‘Father, mother is going to die, and now you have got your choice; either you can come and live with me or you must go to the poor farm’.”
At this point. the chest was shown in which Mrs. Jones kept her valuables. It is a large, square hardwood box, cushioned on top to be used as a divan. In it is a small box or chest of inlaid wood, having a triple lock. In this was kept the property.
William Jones continued: “When mother was dying Alfred asked for the keys to the chests. My daughter, Mrs. Prescott, gave them to him. I was in the room at the time, but when I saw him unlock the inner chest I left the room, for I was powerless to hinder his taking the property and could not stay to see it done. He took $58 in money, deeds of the farm, diamonds sent from Bombay to my wife by my absent son, and notes which were held against Alfred by his mother. These notes were for $150 and $210 respectively.”
On cross-examination witness said: “My wife and I lived pleasantly together. My occupation part of the time was burning charcoal. I have employed James A. Edgerly as counsel in proceedings against Alfred concerning the property he has taken, but I have never talked with him about the poisoning and he has never advised me regarding it. Mr. Wentworth of Milton is the administrator of my wife’s estate.
“I had no trouble with Alfred on the day she died. Mrs. Prescott gave me the keys of the chest and Sally’s bank book a few days after she died. I don’t know where the diamonds are. The reason I made no protest when Alfred opened the chest was that I was sick.
“I never used any poison for any purpose, never gave any to a dog, and have never handled what I supposed was poison. I never made any inquiry in reference to the medicine my wife used. I don’t know what her medicine was, or whether she had got through taking it by Dec 3. I cannot say that I saw her boiling chicken on that day. Those who were at dinner then were my wife, myself and my daughter, Mrs. Prescott. William Ham, who occupied an L of the house, came in after dinner and was given by my wife some of the chicken, which he ate.
“When about an hour after dinner I was told that Sally was very sick. I went right into her room and found her in distress. I never used to go into her room much, and was never told to keep out. She was always kind to me and I to her.”
The witness was asked a second time about his always being kind to her, and he made the same reply. Lawyer Crowley made an exclamation of incredulity of the witness’ statement, whereupon solicitor Nason objected.
The witness stated that he could not recollect whether he had ever had any conversation with his wife regarding her property within the hearing of others.
The hearing at this point was continued until 9 a.m. tomorrow (Boston Globe, January 4, 1898).
Alfred W. Jones spent about a year back in Milton. His farm was situated on a cross road, one mile north of the Milton depot. (In 1880, he had been enumerated between the households of Henry Downs and Benjamin W. Foss). He appeared next as the victim of sheep thieves there.
The Census enumerator found the supposedly repentant Irvin Corsen, a farm laborer, aged twenty-four years (b. NH), and Elmo Greenier, no occupation given, aged twenty-eight years (b. Canada)), residing in the Strafford County jail in Dover, NH, in June 1900. They were two of the twenty-nine prisoners there. (The sheriff and his family resided there too).
Alfred W. Jones, a farmer, aged fifty-one years (b. MA), was also imprisoned there.
Alfred W. Jones had returned to the Strafford County jail, in 1899, but this time for debt. He was still there years later.
The Strafford County jail had a front portion for administration and the sheriff’s residence, and an unusual “Revolving Jail” behind.
Alfred W. Jones, a farmer, aged sixty-one years (b. MA), was still imprisoned in the Strafford County Jail, in Dover, NH, at the time of the Thirteenth (1910) Federal Census (April 25, 1910). By this time, he had spent nearly eleven years there.
Alfred W. Jones, of Milton, NH, died at the NH State Hospital, in Concord, NH, February 5, 1913, aged sixty-four years, three months, and five days. He had been an inmate there for one year, eleven months, and nine days. The cause of death was “suicide by asphyxia (handkerchief in throat),” with insanity as a contributing cause.